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March 9 - House Supports a Constitutional Amendment

NH House Happenings

By Rep. John Cloutier

House Supports Constitutional Convention

New Hampshireʼs House of Representatives
has decided that a constitutional convention of
states is needed to consider amending the United States Constitution.

On March 4 by a 181-141 roll call vote, the House adopted HCR (House Concurrent Resolution) 2 which would “apply” or petition the United States Congress to call for a constitutional convention of all 50 states to take up and approve proposed amendments to the Constitu- tion under its Article V, a convention consisting of delegations sent by all 50 states to consider some specifically proposed amendments to the Constitution, proposed amendments which would overturn the United States Supreme Courtʼs controversial Citizens United Decision that in 2010 invalidated most federal and state restrictions on political cam- paign financing. This is an invalidation which has resulted in almost un- limited spending by corporations and unions in all elections. 

If the just-described amendments are approved by the necessary ma- jorities at the constitutional convention, they then would be submitted to the legislatures of all 50 states for ratification. Finally, if three-fourths or at least 38 state legislatures ratified any of the amendments, they would then become part of the Constitution.

Adoption of HCR 2 came after a long and spirited debate on the House floor, following a recommendation by a majority of the House State Federal Relations & Veterans Affairs Committee to approve the resolution. Additionally, we representatives were lobbied heavily by email and in person by various citizens from both New Hampshire and other states to vote for HCR 2. These citizens included such diverse political personalities as former Hanover Sen. Jim Rubens, a Republi- can, and ice cream maker Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerryʼs, a liberal activist. The resolution, though it attracted bipartisan support on the floor and in committee, was supported by a trio of Democratic representatives, in- cluding Manchesterʼs Timothy Smith, Berlinʼs Robert Theberge, and Lit- tletonʼs Linda Massimilla.

Rep. Smith, in his floor speech supporting HCR 2, said a limited con- stitutional convention as called for by the resolution is needed for three main reasons. First, it is one of two viable ways to overturn the 2010 Citizens United Decision, which the Supreme Court shows no sign of reversing any time in the immediate future. Second, the second viable way that involves the United States Congress passing an amendment to overturn Citizens United is presently unlikely, since many members of Congress are benefiting from the almost unlimited spending by corpora- tions and unions in their elections. Third, he said that inaction in at- tempting to overturn Citizens United would result in increased corruption at all levels of government, and destruction our nationʼs democratic re- public.

Furthermore, Rep. Smith denied the charge as alleged by HCR 2 op- ponents that a limited constitutional convention as called for in his reso- lution under the Constitutionʼs Article V would become a “runaway con- vention.” A runaway convention that go beyond considering constitu- tional amendments to overturn Citizens United, and also consider other amendments to drastically change the entire Constitution. In any case, he reminded the House that any amendments approved by such a con- vention would have to gain the approval of 75 percent of all state legis- latures in order to become part of the Constitution.

Nevertheless, HCR 2 opponents emphasized that the resolutionʼs proposed constitutional convention still could become a runaway as- sembly, adopting wholesale revisions to our nationʼs charter of govern- ment. One representative, Londonderryʼs Alfred Baldasaro, even stated that the Supreme Court made the right decision in Citizens United, claiming that it “leveled the playing field,” in regard to campaign fund- raising.

HCR 2 now goes to the New Hampshire Senate for review, assuming that a reconsideration motion fails passage when the House is next scheduled to meet on March 11. The reconsideration motion was filed by Greenland Rep. Pamela Tucker, who voted for the resolution, but has since apparently changed her mind about its worthiness. However, usually from my House experience, most reconsideration motions do not get approval. 

Also on March 4 by a 233-76 division vote, the House approved a re- lated piece of legislation to HCR 2, which calls for a constitutional con- vention of states. This measure is House Bill 148, which would pertain to all delegates selected by New Hampshire to attend the Article V con- vention as mentioned in the earlier-described resolution. Among other provisions, the bill would establish a procedure for selection of all of our stateʼs delegates, who would total seven, and would be elected by the New Hampshire Legislature. There would also be seven alternative delegates. Additionally, it would limit the authority of the seven dele- gates to only consideration of proposed amendments within the scope of HCR 2. Finally, it would require the New Hampshire Secretary of State to recall any delegates who consider unauthorized amendments. House Bill 148 is sponsored by a group of Republican legislators, led by Fremont Rep. Daniel Itse. It now proceeds to the Senate.

For readersʼ information, I did vote for both HCR 2 and House Bill 148. Frankly, in the past, I have not been very supportive of resolutions calling for constitutional conventions to consider proposed amendments to the United States Constitution in general, or on a specific subject matter such as a balanced federal budget. But the Supreme Courtʼs Citizens United Decision so shocked and angered me that I believe it is time to amend the Constitution so as to reverse this terrible decision. A decision which by eliminating most campaign finance restrictions has led to increased amounts of money spent in all elections since 2010, money mainly spent by corporations in an effort to elect or defeat can- didates in federal and state races. And money which I believe is slowly corrupting our entire political system, including the New Hampshire House.

Email: jocloutier@comcast.net

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